Hands-on with Eero Pro 6: Amazon’s new high-end Wi-Fi 6 mesh router shows promise

4 Nov, 2020 John Mendoza No Comments


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A single Eero 6 router — you get that plus two identical-looking range extenders for $279.


Amazon

Eero is a mesh networking brand that was acquired by Amazon in early 2019. Now, as 2020 wraps up, the company’s newest mesh routers are available on Amazon and at retailers including Best Buy and Dell.

Called the Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6, respectively, the two new systems start at $199, with the standalone Eero 6 router costing $129. Along with a new Zigbee radio that lets Alexa users pair with things like smart lights and smart locks without need for additional hub hardware, each new Eero system also adds in support for Wi-Fi 6, the newest and most advanced version of Wi-Fi.

Like all mesh routers, Eero systems use multiple devices to spread a stronger Wi-Fi signal throughout your home. You’ll connect the main router to your modem just like a normal router, then you’ll plug in the identical-looking satellite devices in other parts of your home where you want to boost the connection. 

Ideally, the result is a larger, more robust Wi-Fi network with fewer dead zones. That’s been the case when we’ve tested previous Eero systems, and we’re in the process of looking under the hood with these new systems, too,

I’ve posted our first speed test results for the Eero Pro 6 in the section below, and will follow up with the same for the Eero 6 in the coming days (testing these things takes time, you know). For now, let’s start with a full breakdown of your purchase options (and a reminder that CNET may receive a share of revenue when you purchase products through the links on our site):

After a few weeks’ worth of preorder sales, both the Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6 are now listed as “In Stock” on Amazon and at other retailers. Meanwhile, a preorder bundle that paired the $279 Eero 6 system with a free third-gen Echo Dot smart speaker and two free Philips Hue White Ambiance smart bulbs is still available, too, though as of writing this, it’s back-ordered until Nov. 26.  

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Unlike Eero 6, where the router is a different piece of hardware than the range-extending satellites, each Eero Pro 6 device is interchangeable. You can use any of them as either the main router or as a range extender.


Ry Crist/CNET

At home and hands on with the Eero Pro 6

Amazon says that the regular Eero 6 system is designed for homes with internet speeds of up to 500Mbps, while the faster Eero Pro 6 system is built to take advantage of gigabit speeds, complete with a tri-band design that features an extra 5GHz band to keep network transmissions between Eero devices separate from your regular internet traffic. That’s a difference-maker when it comes to mesh networking, especially when you’re connecting at range — and it’s also a feature that pairs particularly well with Wi-Fi 6. Even if none of your own devices support the new, faster Wi-Fi standard, they’ll still benefit from your Eero devices slinging data across the mesh faster and more efficiently.

I’ve had an Eero Pro 6 system up and running here at my home in Louisville, Kentucky, for the past few days. It’s a smallish, shotgun-style house of about 1,300 square feet, and my AT&T fiber internet connection sits at 300Mbps. A system like Eero Pro 6 is probably overkill for a space like this — especially the Eero Pro 6 three-pack that Amazon sent my way — but I still wanted to get a good look at how the system compared with some of the best mesh routers we’ve tested, including Nest Wifi, the AX6000 version of Netgear Orbi and the Asus ZenWiFi AX.

The Eero app makes quick work of setting your system up.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Soon, we’ll test out the system’s top speeds in our lab, and examine the range and signal strength at the 5,800-square-foot CNET Smart Home. I’ll update this space as soon as I have that data for you.

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Each Eero Pro 6 device features a USB-C power port and two Ethernet jacks. That doesn’t allow for very many wired connections to the router, and you don’t get any standard USB jacks, either.


Ry Crist/CNET

Setting the system up was a cinch thanks to the Eero app, which walks you through the process with clear, simple instructions and helpful guidance on how to pick the best spots for your devices. Plug the Eero Pro 6 into your modem, press go in the app and you’ll be up and running within minutes.

From there, the app lets you see the devices on your network, and it can notify you if something new joins. You can also group devices into profiles with their own specific rules for things like parental controls and timed access (and yes, that also means that you can holler at Alexa to turn off the kids Wi-Fi when they’re misbehaving). For $3 per month, you can add in ad blocking and advanced content filtering with an Eero Secure subscription — make that $10 per month if you want to add encrypt.me VPN access, Malwarebytes anti-virus protection for Mac and Windows and a subscription to 1Password, one of our favorite password managers.

Unlike the Eero 6, where the router and range-extending satellites are two separate pieces of hardware, the Eero Pro 6 devices are all interchangeable, so any one of them can serve as the main router. The system is also backward compatible with earlier-gen Eero routers and range extenders, though I haven’t yet had a chance to see how the system performs when you add legacy hardware into the mix. I just wish the Eero Pro 6 devices featured more than two Ethernet jacks on the back. If you’re like me, you’ll need at least a few more than that to handle wired connections to your various smart home hubs, media streamers and the like.

Features aside, I was eager to start running speed tests. I use the same methodology with every router I test, running several speed tests at a time in various spots in my home, starting in the same room as the router and ending in my back bathroom, the farthest spot from the router. Then, I repeat all of that, but backward — I start with a fresh connection in that back bathroom and work my way back toward the router. I run that entire process multiple times across multiple days — in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, you name it.

Wi-Fi 6 helped Eero Pro 6 beat out Nest Wifi as far as speeds are concerned, but it wasn’t quite as fast as our top Wi-Fi 6 systems, the Asus ZenWiFi AX and the Netgear Orbi AX6000.


Ry Crist/CNET

The end result is a big, scary spreadsheet filled with more than a hundred speed test results and average download speeds for each room I test in. With one Eero Pro 6 device plugged into the modem in my living room and a second device situated in my master bedroom — the same two-piece approach I use with all of the mesh routers I test — the speeds were certainly swift, averaging out to about 251Mbps across the entire home. That’s better than Nest Wifi, which averaged out to about 222Mbps, but it’s a bit short of the Asus ZenWiFi AX and the Netgear Orbi AX6000, which registered whole-home averages of 272 and 289Mbps, respectively.

That lines up with how these systems are priced. The AX600 version of Netgear Orbi is expensive at $700 for a two-piece system, or $1,000 for a three-pack; meanwhile, the two-piece Asus ZenWiFi AX system costs $450, with a third device adding an extra $250 to the cost. At $600 for a three-piece system, the Eero Pro 6 might sit as a high-end value pick for large homes since it’s one of the most affordable ways to get a tri-band Wi-Fi 6 mesh router with two satellites under your roof. Meanwhile, at $269 for a two-piece setup or $349 for a three-piece setup, Nest Wifi retains a lot of value of its own, though it isn’t a tri-band system and it doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6.

Digging a little deeper into the data, I was pleased to see that the Eero Pro 6 system didn’t drop my connection at any point during my tests — it offers a satisfying level of reliability and predictability. My speeds dipped a bit as I moved through the back of my house, where the system needed to route my connection through the satellite, but those dips were consistent and barely noticeable. 

A single Eero Pro 6 router without any satellites performed very well compared with the competition — it beat out the Netgear Orbi AX6000, but fell just short of the Linksys Velop MX5 and our top performer in this test, the Asus ZenWiFi AX.


Ry Crist/CNET

When I got rid of the satellites and reran my tests with just one Eero Pro 6 router and no mesh at all, my average speeds dipped more noticeably in that back bathroom, but still stayed up above 80Mbps, which is a pretty good result. Speeds everywhere else remained close to my home’s speed limit of 300Mbps, and the overall average rang in at 259Mbps — slightly faster than the average when I used two Eero Pro 6 devices. 

Each colored line represents the lag results across all of my speed tests for a single mesh router. Spikes out from the center represent tests where the lag was high, so closer to the center is better here. Eero Pro 6, the blue line, was the best of this bunch.


Ry Crist/CNET

That might seem counterintuitive, but it’s because the two-piece setup was cautious. It routed my connection through the satellite in places like my hallway bathroom and master bedroom where it could have gotten away with just connecting directly to the main router.

The key is that back bathroom — with a single Eero Pro 6, the average speed in there was 88Mbps. With two Eero Pro 6 devices, that average jumped to 200Mbps. That tells you the system is working as intended, and boosting speeds in places where it’d be be difficult to connect with a single standalone router. A slight speed reduction in rooms adjacent to dead zones like that is a fair tradeoff for whole-home coverage.

Meanwhile, Eero’s lag performance was excellent, with only one spike of more than 25ms across all of my tests. That’s noticeably less lag than I’ve seen from any of our top mesh router picks, and a great result to see from a brand-new system.

One last note: I run these tests on a Dell XPS laptop that doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6 in order to get a good, real-world sense of speeds, and also to serve as a contrast to our lab-based top speed tests, where we use Wi-Fi 6 devices to get a complete look at each router’s capabilities in an ideal setting (again, stay tuned for those results in the coming days). If you’re using Wi-Fi 6 devices like those in your home, then your speeds will likely be a bit faster than mine.

How much faster? To find out, I repeated my laps around the house yet again — but this time, I ran my speed tests on an iPhone 12 Pro, one of a growing number of devices that boast full support for Wi-Fi 6. My results were, indeed, faster — specifically, about 20% faster than I saw on the laptop when I was near the main router, and up to 35% faster when I was connecting at range, through the satellite.

Next up, the Eero 6

I’ll repeat this entire testing process for the Eero 6 system once it arrives at my door. Expect to see full details on how it performs as soon as my at-home tests are done, followed by top speed tests for both systems from our lab and signal strength tests from the CNET Smart Home.

For now, though, the Eero Pro 6 system is off to a promising start — particularly for large homes with incoming internet speeds of 500Mbps or greater. Households like that stand to benefit the most from a robust, three-piece mesh setup with a tri-band design and full support for Wi-Fi 6, and the Eero Pro 6 gets you there for less cash than any of our top-rated systems.

That said, for most of us, a system like Eero Pro 6 is probably more than we need. Even among power users, the average internet speeds in the US remain well below the type of gigabit speeds that Eero Pro 6 is meant to take advantage of, and Wi-Fi 6 adoption is still a work in progress — it’s available in lots of phones and computers, but we still haven’t seen things like smart home cameras and media streamers adopt the standard. Eero Pro 6 looks like a good, reliable Wi-Fi system, but my hunch is that the regular Eero 6 will prove just as capable for a home like mine at less than half the cost of going Pro.

At any rate, we’ll know more soon when we have the rest of our results for both systems. Now, back to work.



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